Climatic conditions and infant care: implications for child nutrition in rural Ethiopia

Heather Randell, Kathryn Grace, Maryia Bakhtsiyarava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We examine the relationships between climatic conditions, breastfeeding behavior, and maternal time use in Ethiopia. Infant feeding practices are important predictors of child nutrition that may be affected by a number of factors including mother’s time engaging in agricultural labor, food security, cultural beliefs, and antenatal care. We use panel data from the Living Standards Measurement Study to investigate linkages between climatic conditions during a child’s first year of life and year prior to birth and duration of exclusive breastfeeding. We then explore one potential mechanism: women’s agricultural labor. Results indicate that rainfall during the primary agricultural season—kiremt—in a child’s first year of life plays an important role in duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Experiencing 25 cm of average monthly kiremt rainfall, versus 5 cm, is associated with a 20-percentage-point decrease in the likelihood of being exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6 months. More kiremt rainfall is associated with a greater number of days that women spend planting and harvesting, and at high levels of rainfall women with infants do not engage in significantly fewer days of agricultural labor than those without infants. Lastly, we find that during the year before birth, greater rainfall during kiremt as well as the dry season is associated with a lower likelihood of 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, potentially due to the early introduction of complementary foods. Our findings indicate that agricultural labor demands may in part drive breastfeeding behaviors, leading to “sub-optimal” feeding practices in the short-term, but resulting in improved household food security in the longer-term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPopulation and Environment
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the conference on Demographic Responses to Changes in the Natural Environment held at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, supported in part by a grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute on Child Health and Human Development (R13 HD096853). The authors thank the three anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback.

Funding Information:
We recognize infrastructure funding from the Pennsylvania State University Population Research Institute (5P2CHD041025-17).

Keywords

  • Agriculture
  • Breastfeeding
  • Child nutrition
  • Climate change
  • Ethiopia
  • Time use

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